Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 27, No. 2. 1964.
Recent events have shown that acquittal on a criminal charge is not sufficient to prevent one's character being smeared.
Two recent cases involving university students have shown this clearly.
The case of arts student John McMurray, charged with digging up a certain cricket pitch attracted the most attention. The evidence against him was thin, to put it mildly. It was the sort of circumstantial nonsense that could have been used against anybody, plus a bit of hearsay.
"A witness has testified that you said you took a cabbage from the produce market. You were found to have a cabbage of the right size and shape in your possession. How do you explain these incriminating facts?"
In fact the police case was so thin that they twice asked for and obtained a remand. Presumably they were compelled by their own inefficiency in evidence gathering to adopt a Micawberish "We hope something will turn up attitude." Of course it is possible that they might have considered delaying the proceedings until public interest had subsided, and withdrawing the information. Unfortunately they showed no signs of such an action.
They were assisted in their persecution by the daily press, which printed minor masterpieces of synoptic distortion. The Evening Post's emphasis on the legal formula "beyond all reasonable doubt" was particularly offensive. The impression left was that despite McMurray's acquittal some on the Post thought him guilty.
This kind of suggestion must be the responsibility of the editor. If he agreed with it, he should have printed an article saying so and accepted the legal consequences. The subtle implication that something is sinister is not the kind of journalism expected from a respectable newspaper.
The other case involved students and ex-students at a party to which they were not invited. Not an unusual situation, it could have ended less unpleasantly, said the magistrate, if the police had not been called. The police seem to have the ability to provoke people into doing things they might otherwise not do. This particular incident ended with six people being charged with minor offences and being acquitted.
If the police think that this sort of thing undermines their authority they have only themselves to blame. They are supposed to be professionals at handling disturbances. They still have a great deal to learn.